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What Affects Balance in Stroke Survivors?

Feeling stable on your own two feet can mean the difference between walking freely and feeling obligated to use an assistive device like a walker. Balance is affected by three main components, each of which is vulnerable to stroke.

Balance is affected by:

1. Vision: Our sense of eyesight allows us to establish ourselves within a spatial environment. 

2. The Vestibular System: The mechanisms of the inner ear that perceive the heads movement through space and stimulate reflexes. An unaffected vestibular system would feel you sway and tell your brain to adjust your body posture to catch you.

3. Propioception: The unconscious perception of movement and pressure on your muscles and joints. Someone with a healthy sense of propioception registers pressure on their ankles, which informs their decision on how to balance their weight.

If any two of these three components are affected, balance will be impaired. Spasticity can also cause balance issues in stroke survivors, due to the stiffness of muscles. This is best addressed by incorporating extensive stretching into a physical rehabilitation plan.

By: Kayleen Cohen, Stroke-Network.com

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"Feeling stable on your own two feet can mean the difference between walking freely and feeling obligated to use an assistive device."

A Straighter Gait

A woman recovering several years after her stroke complained that her legs did not swing straight forward when she walked. Her legs swung slightly to the side and her ankles rolled slightly as a result.
Her physical therapist suggested weak muscles on the front of her hip could have been the cause and recommended knee lifts as a solution.

Knee Lifts:
Stand perpendicular to a counter top, support yourself with one hand and raise the opposite knee. Only lift your knee as high as you are comfortable, but push yourself a little more each time. Knee lifts strengthen the muscles on the front of your hip, improving balance and straightening your stride.

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